BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Ben Simmons didn't have to
shoot particularly well or throw down any flashy dunks to provide an
invaluable, dynamic, wire-to-wire presence for LSU.
Simmons had 16 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists,
and LSU defeated No. 15 Texas A&M 76-71 on Saturday, the Aggies' fourth
Playing all 40 minutes — sometimes in the post and
sometimes at guard — the 6-foot-10 Simmons shot only 4 of 11 from the field,
but was 8 of 9 at the free throw line to go with three steals and a blocked
shot without a turnover.
"Any time you play against a really solid
defensive basketball team like Texas A&M and not have any turnovers and
you're handling the ball for the percentage of time during the game like that,
it speaks volumes of his ability to see the floor and make the right plays and
the right passes," LSU coach Johnny Jones said of his star freshman.
"Great all-around game for him. ... He can impact the game without taking
shots and that's how good he is and that's how effective he is — and I think he
gives guys confidence around him."
Craig Victor scored 14 of his 16 points in the second
half and Keith Hornsby added 15 points for the Tigers (16-9, 9-3 Southeastern
Conference), who remained tied atop the SEC standings with Kentucky.
"Victor was a big difference around the
basket," A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. "We had no answer for him.
I thought we got out-toughed."
Danuel House scored 20 points for Texas A&M (18-7,
7-5), which has lost five straight conference games. Alex Caruso scored 14
points and Jalen Jones added 12 for the Aggies, who led by as many as seven
points early in the second half, but faded down the stretch for a fifth loss in
six games, which could drop them out of the AP Top 25.
"We've just got to go back to the drawing board
and find ways to win on the road," House said. "We're a good team.
We've just got to put pieces back together."
Antonio Blakeney scored 10 points for LSU, which won
for the second time in four games against ranked opponents this season.
"It was huge," Simmons said of the victory,
which came as LSU tries to solidify its NCAA Tournament credentials. "It
was a great opportunity for us to get that win."
Texas A&M had its largest lead of the second half
when Jones' 3 made it 42-35. LSU then tied it with a 7-0 run that included
Victor's four free throws, and the game was a tense, back-and-forth affair for
most of the final 16 minutes.
The Tigers were clinging to a 65-64 lead after
Caruso's free throws with 3:25 left, but Hornsby and Tim Quarterman combined to
quickly give LSU a 70-64 lead; Quarterman set up Hornsby's 3, then Hornsby's
steal led to Quarterman's breakaway layup.
Texas A&M trailed by six with a minute remaining,
but Blakeney stripped House, and the Aggies were forced to start fouling.
Quarterman made two free throws and House missed a 3-point attempt, virtually
sealing the result.
LSU players singled out Hornsby for providing an
emotional lift when he dived for a loose ball in the backcourt in a race with
two Aggies who toppled on top of the Tigers' guard. Hornsby's hustle forced a
turnover when the ball deflected out of bounds off Texas A&M. Hornsby then
got up and waved his arms to rile up the crowd.
"Now I have this strawberry on my back, but
that's OK," Hornsby said. "I'll see that and it'll remind me of this
Starting guard Alex Collins played 5 minutes in the
first half before leaving the game for good with what Kennedy later described
as an apparent stomach illness.
Kennedy said losing the senior guard's poise and
ball-handling ability might have contributed to A&M's 19 turnovers, but
added, "That is no excuse. Our guys are good enough to have won that game.
We can't turn it over that many times."
Texas A&M: Texas A&M had won the previous
three games in the series, including one this season, 71-57, in College
Station, Texas. ... Caruso, the NCAA's active leader in steals, had three to
increase his career total to 257. ... Admon Gilder scored 11 points. ... The
Aggies shot 55.8 percent (29 of 52) but were hurt not only by committing 10
more turnovers than LSU, but also by being outscored 23-6 on free throws.
"It makes it hard to win," Kennedy said of the free throw and
turnover differentials. "We had our chances. That's how well we did some
other things. We will build off that."
LSU: The Tigers have won 13 of 15 games in the series
that have been played in Baton Rouge. ... LSU improved to 6-0 in home SEC
Texas A&M: Hosts Mississippi on Tuesday night.
LSU: Hosts Alabama on Wednesday night.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or
Posted on Sun, February 14, 2016
by BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer